A krasáki at Kolonáki
We left Zakynthos the old-fashioned way: by ferry and bus to Athens. There’s nothing like being on the water to make you feel like you’re leaving or arriving on an island – coming by plane just can’t compare. On a calm sea we slowly watched Zakynthos turn into a hazy blur on the horizon, a slightly darker blue meeting the ultramarine of the sea.
For the end of September, it was unusually hot in Athens. The Friday afternoon traffic held us up but we finally arrived in our modest little apartment. Once again we chose to use AirBnb for the luxury of having a bit more room in which to spread out and for the option of eating in if we wanted. We were in the Pangrati district, just a quick walk across a park from the Evaggelismos metro stop and, most importantly, the Airport Bus. Walking into Syntagma Square, the epicentre of Athens, took about 15 minutes, except for the time we ended up going in circles in the National Gardens trying to find an exit. Continue reading
Our couchsurf near Salon-de-Provence was perfectly situated for day tours into the hill towns of Provence. Our first tour was to be of the Alpilles, a long limestone range full of olive trees, vineyards and medieval towns.
We got off to a bit of a bumpy start, circumnavigating Salon a couple of times before finding the correct road. We’d planned a little route round the Alpilles, starting at Eyguières, transiting Mouriès, then hitting Les Baux-de-Provence, where we had our first stop.
Les Baux – one of the most beautiful villages in France
We picked up a car near the Nîmes train station and headed for our next destination – a Couchsurf near Salon-de-Provence. But as we had a bit of time to kill we decided to do a little side trip along the way. Referring to our guidebook we found a detour to the town of Miramas-le-Vieux. They really seem to like these hyphenated town names here, sometimes stretching to four or five words strung together in a memory-testing place name. We duly took turned off from the highway and headed south.
After about 20 minutes we approached the outskirts of a large town which turned out to be Miramas (note the lack of ‘-le-Vieux’). This ugly modern town seemed to bear no resemblance to the guidebook’s description so we decided to drive on and look for an alternative. Just after exiting the town we spotted a discrete sign up a narrow local road for ‘Miramas-le-Vieux’. We’d just discovered one of the little touring pitfalls – if there is a town called ‘le-Vieux’, which of course means ‘the-old’, then that most likely indicates that there is also a newer, and usually much less picturesque, town with the same name waiting to confuse visitors.
On a cold February evening in 1999 I met my future husband in a pub on Main Street, Clifden. By the end of the year I’d moved to that little market town on the Atlantic, where I spent the next four years before moving back to Australia.
As little towns in Ireland go, Clifden’s not bad. Being a tourist town, there are pubs, boutiques and restaurants a-plenty. It’s a vibrant place full of tourists, and you’re always close to beautiful sandy beaches. But in winter it suffers the full force of the Atlantic weather and the tourists disappear along with a good portion on the locals. It’s just you and the mountains. And the lonely bogs.
Sky Road View
One of the best things we did when we first arrived in Ireland was purchase a one year family pass from Heritage Ireland. For €60 we got a year’s worth of monuments, castles and manor houses.
We purchased it on our visit to Tintern Abbey and Colclough Walled Gardens last September down in Wexford. Since then we’ve tried to visit as many Heritage Ireland sites as possible, though there are many more that we didn’t manage to get to. Some of our favourites were:
- Tintern Abbey
A Cistercian abbey, founded c. 1200 by William, the Earl Marshall, and named after Tintern in Wales. It was occupied until the 1960s by the Colclough family.
The holiday season is well and truly over and we’ve all settled back into our Dublin routines: the boys in school, myself in college and Ralph working in town. We’re still on a bit of a high after our wonderful tour around Portugal and Spain over New Year’s. If you’re not from Australia or New Zealand you’ll find it hard to appreciate our amazement and delight that when living in Europe you can fly, or drive, and be in another country IN A COUPLE OF HOURS! Endlessly amazing.
Dublin has been having a pretty mild winter, though quite stormy. December was one storm after another and constant, dreary rain. January has been a bit colder, but with some fine days (or parts of days) and the storms not quite so regular. The boys are still hoping for some snow but so far there’s been just a little smattering on the Dublin mountains which disappeared in a day or two.
Dublin, itself, hasn’t been too much of a culture change for us. We are halfway through our planned stay here and settled in fairly nicely. Like in Brisbane, we’re living in a house in the suburbs so I thought I’d do a light hearted comparison between the two. Continue reading
We’ve been keeping pretty quiet lately since our last weekend away in Kerry. After school/work/study during the week it’s tempting to just relax on the weekends. We’ve settled into a routine of strolling down to Dalkey village for coffee and a visit to the library on Saturdays and then spending the afternoon reading the papers and just generally relaxing. Sunday occasionally we venture out for a drive or excursion.
Striking a pose by the river
After leaving Zakynthos we flew to Berlin via Athens. Not the quickest way to go but the cheapest option we found at the time. We flew with Aegean Airlines who were surprisingly good with 23kg of luggage and meal included. We’d chosen to stay in a small pension-hotel in Charlottenburg- Wilmersdorf because of its excellent TripAdvisor reviews, its decent price, and the fact that it was a single bus ride from Berlin Tegel airport. The ease of getting to your hotel via public transport is always something I take into account, as our kids are too small to be able to lift their own luggage up and downs stairs or on and off trains and buses. Hotel-Pension Bregenz was on the fourth floor of a six-storey building on a quiet street just near Olivaer Platz, south of Kufurstendamm.
We took it pretty easy and spent quite a bit of time just wandering about. Some of our favourite experiences were: Continue reading
Well, after being on the road for the last three weeks we are now settling into our new home in Dublin. The plan is to stay here for a school year while the kids attend school and Ralph finds a job. Ideally I’d like a job too but the librarian job market here is almost non-existent so instead it looks like I’ll be doing some postgraduate study at Trinity College instead.
Since leaving Zakynthos (sob) we’ve traveled to Berlin and northern Poland (Pomerania) and hopefully soon there will be some more detailed blogs to follow. But just now we’re concentrating on all those mundane things like getting the internet connect, bank accounts, getting the kids ready for school and starting the job hunt.
In part two of our trip around the Peloponnese we went to Polilimnio and the Mani.
It was time to leave the Mani even though we’d only had time to see a tiny part of it. We headed south to Areopoli and through the mountain pass towards Gytheio with a quick swimming stop at Mavrovouni beach along the way. Arriving in Gytheio just before lunch, we planned to eat at one of its famous harbourside fish tavernas. But it was still a little early so we set off to explore Marathonisi, a one-time island, but now connected by a mole to the mainland. There was an intriguing-sounding Museum of the Mani that occupied an 18th-century tower house that we’d hoped to visit, but alas, it was closed. In ancient times this little island was known as ‘Kranae’, and according to Homer it was here that Paris and Helen of Troy spent their first night after running away from Sparta. We chose a taverna for lunch and sat at a waterside table where we could see the little fish feeding on the mossy rocks. After a meal of kalamari, mussels and a rocket salad it was time to get in the car and continue towards Monemvasia. Continue reading